Learn by paying attention

You can’t do anything about a problem you don’t know about and have never experienced.

So you’ll need to build empathy – the act of putting yourself in another’s shoes to see the problem from their point of view.

Is this work keeping you busy or are you adding true value?

Everyone has ideas and everyone has opinions and within discovery, this is a good thing. Where the value lays is to determine which problem is actually the cause of the most pain and start solving that.

If you put it in context of looking at the common cold you’ll notice that there are many symptoms from a runny nose to a cough. There is medication that will solve that immediate problem. But if you discover the full situational context of the runny nose – you’ll discover that it’s a short fix and you’ll need to do something else to fix the real problem by taking antibiotics (a much stronger and more direct solution).

Why have you decided to pay attention

A business engages you trying to fulfil its unmet needs and ultimately become more successful:

  • To increase output or value of work
  • To decrease costs or wastage, or
  • To find/create additional revenue streams

A startup product idea is looking for a problem to solve. Called Product > Market fit – See Alex Osterwalder’s Value Proposition Canvas, or

Searching within markets to learn about opportunities that you could create the most value for your customers and the process used in Design Thinking is called Market > Product fit. Putting the users first or finding out what the users truly need before building anything.

It’s important I think – to start with the market’s need or a persons worst pain before starting creation of a product idea as this is where you will get the most valuable output for yourself as a company. Otherwise you’ll likely just end up burning through your runway needlessly.

What are you paying attention to?

Enter the five why’s

“By repeatedly asking the question “Why” (five is a good rule of thumb), you can peel away the layers of symptoms which can lead to the root cause of a problem.”

See: isixsigma’s full explaination

Below is the simplest and best explanation i’ve found.

5 Why Worksheet22

You can find a more in-depth explanation here and a more in-depth decision tree version here.

How are you paying attention? What methods can you use?

Workshops using various discovery tools like canvases

Depending on what problem you are trying to solve there are many canvases that elicit varied responses to give you insights or a direction in which to continue learning from. Research is about going wide or divergent thinking (See the double diamond model) in order to learn as much as you can. To ultimately get to the base of the five why’s as above.

There are many Toolkits available for you to use when researching via a workshop, and most of these below have an explanation of how each particular party uses them. You’ll start with your interpretation of what they recommend and find your own uses so as to help solve your own problems.

The current trending toolkits are:

IDEO Design Kit
Hyper Island Toolbox
AC4D Design Library
Business Model Canvas / Value Proposition Canvas/
DIY Toolkit
The Service Design Toolkit

The Social Design Methods Menu

You’ll find a writeup of them here: http://servicedesign.net.au/toolkits/

You’ll find an even longer list here thanks to @pennyhagen

If you have any more I’d love to hear about them @jthoyer #DesignToolkits

The beauty of these canvases are the engagement you get as participants – the experts in this subject matter, are now playing a game in which their success is all but guaranteed through this expertise.

The job of the facilitator is essentially to ask questions that will prompt responses to the affirmative or alternative enabling conversations, debates and aha moments to occur between participants that will validate or invalidate what you thought you knew in ways that you never could have known walking into the room to begin with.

These new insights having been validated against the five why’s to be the root cause of the problem are then prioritised (see the Pareto principal) as to which elements we can build and test as an MVP. This is essentially your next phase of development which you will test again – either through further workshops or Usability Testing.

Work shadows

Also knows as field trips, work shadows allow you to experience what people do in their natural habitat. The difference between what someone says and what they actually do comes down to the stage of competence of the person and their desire to please the interviewer in a social desirability bias construct – the nature of trying to make something better or nicer than it actually is. You’ll also get many more insights by watching the subconscious mind work than by asking the memory to explain.

Customer interviews & Surveys

Surveys work really well when you are trying to get a rough gauge of like-ability of a tool or usefulness of a feature (when talking about products or services) eg. “On a scale of bad to good tell me…” as quickly you can broadcast to a larger audience and receive a larger amount of responses (Quantitative data) than singular interviews (Qualitative data) which will a better general understanding of the landscape rather than one persons opinion.

They are also great at giving people the opportunity to give detailed thoughtful responses as the responder will have more time to give hopefully a more complete answer rather than the first thing that popped into their head. This doesn’t however give the interviewer the option to dig deeper into a particular answer to utilise the ‘Five why’s’ as above, or the most useful question in the interviewer’s handbook – “Can you tell me more about that”.

The above is just my view of the world and I’d love to hear how you see it. Please tweet @jthoyer so everyone can join the conversation as well. I look forward to your thoughts.

Be good.